Thank Then Ask

(October 20, 2019)

Bottom line: Today we see the first steps of prayer: thank, then ask.

Last week we talked about gratitude. We heard about a man Jesus cured - one in ten - who returned to thank him. Jesus says to the man, "Stand up and go; your faith has saved you." Gratitude is the most basic prayer - simply to say, "thank you, Lord".

Before going to the second step of prayer, I'd like to share something that makes me grateful. You may have read the same news: A meta analyis of various medical studies indicates that dog owners live longer! I was ready to share this with some priest friends who unfortunately are cat owners. Well, another study showed that cat owners are smarter than dog owners. I can't imagine why. Still, there is a silver lining. Although cat owners tend to be smarter, dog owners are happier.

Why are dog owners happier? Probably for many reasons, but I think it comes down to gratitude. Dogs are grateful even for small things. Cats on the other hand are entitled.* I may be projecting but cats seem to take things for granted. Like someone we'll hear about next Sunday, they look down on the rest of us. Dogs look up and receive their blessings with gratitude. Gratitude brings happiness.

Whether you prefer cats or dogs, whether you have a pet or not, start with gratitude. I know gratitude can be hard, especially when trials come. Whatever is happening in your life, do you not have something to be thankful for? Jesus, knowing he would face terrible torture and humiliation, still lifted the chalice of thanksgiving.

It's enough just to spend time thanking God, but today Jesus invites us to take a second step. Ask God for what you need. Today Jesus teaches persistent prayer - like the aggrieved widow who keeps pestering the judge - until she finally gets a hearing. I know you've prayed a long time for your son or daughter. Don't stop. Even if the person you are praying for dies, keep praying. Looking toward November we have a vase where you can place the name of your deceased loved one. There are even prayers for those who have committed suicide.

Never stop praying - day or night. Periodically I wake up in the middle of the night. Just reaching for my rosary beads and holding them seems like a good prayer. If I don't fall back to sleep, I will think, "best to get up, wrap a blanket around me and pray in my chapel". Jesus speaks about calling out to God "day and night".

In launching the campaign for elderly priests and sisters, we immersed ourselves in prayer. Now, during these weeks of the formal campaign we have a special prayer to conclude the General Intercessions. We can accomplish a lot by persistent prayer.

Today we have seen the first steps of prayer: thank, then ask. Next week's Gospel contains the third step. I won't keep you in suspense. It is "repent" followed by "praise". To remember the steps use this acronym: TARP - Thank, Ask, Repent and Praise. Like a tarp, prayer protects and give a space for encounter.

This week keep in mind what Jesus says about the necessity "to pray always without becoming weary." Amen.


*I don't hate cats. In fact, I am fond of them. When I get together with brother priests for our monthly day of reflection, we make a Holy Hour. Sometimes one of the cats will jump into my lap and purr while I stroke his back. It's quite nice, but he always makes it clear it is his choice not mine. He is honoring me by letting me pet him.

Homily Boots Laced #5: Why We Need Intercessory Prayer - with Invitation to Eucharistic Adoration by Dwight Bickler (Audio homily for 29th Sunday, Year C 2016)

How to Pray, Part Two: Persistence (Audio homily for 29th Sunday, Year C 2013)

Spanish Version

From Archives (Homilies for Twenty-Ninth Sunday, Year C):

2016: Boots Laced Week 5: Little People
2013: Focus on Prayer, Part Two: Persistence
2010: Persistent Prayer - The Eucharist
2007: The Manly Task of Intercession
2004: A Significant Battlefront
2001: Such a Home Is Prayer
1998: All Scripture is Inspired

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Fr. Frank Schuster
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